REGIONALS: MIDWEST

Texoma's Topwater Stripers, Branson browns and 'bows,Leech Lake Muskies, Lake Webster Walleyes

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Texoma's Topwater Stripers
Brave the madding crowds for serious surface action
Oklahoma Early on any July morning, the "Striper Armada," 50 to 100 boats strong, sets out on sprawling Lake Texoma following schools of striped bass as they leave the cool, deep waters of the lake's main pool to chase their breakfast. The stripers drive shad along the bluffs and tremendous topwater action ensues. "You'll see a shad blow up out of the water, then you'll see a big washtub-sized boil underneath him," says fisheries biologist Paul Mauck. Concentrate your search for feeding bass around the railroad bridge and the dam on the north-south arm of the lake, on the Red River Arm along the Eisenhower bluffs and in the Two Rivers area.

Use a seven-foot rod for extra casting range and be ready to throw shad-colored Pencil Pops or Chug Bug Big Bugs right at the surfacing fish. "Usually the striper will stun a shad before coming back and swallowing it," says Mauck. "That's when you want to have your topwater bait ready to cast right to the fish. Everybody else sees the fish rise, too. Sometimes you can have quite a few people casting to the same fish. It can get frustrating, but that's striper fishing on Texoma."

Texoma's stripers range in size from 3 to 20 pounds. Surprisingly, the population is able to reproduce naturally due to the high salinity of the Red River, which flows into the lake. Contact: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (405-521-3851). -Philip Bourjaily

The Holy Hex Hatch
Die-hard trouters flock to L.P. rivers
Michigan For trout fishermen, it's the Super Bowl of bug hatches; the annual emergence of Hexagenia limbata, the outsize mayfly that can drive big browns crazy. "It's probably your only opportunity of the year to catch a really large trout on a dry fly," says Dave Hise of Thornapple Outfitters. "On bigger rivers like the Pere Marquette and Au Sable, browns between 18 and 22 inches aren't uncommon, and larger fish are possible."

The Hex hatch is a weather-driven event, but Hise says it usually starts around June 20. "The bugs start coming off the water about sundown and may go well into the night," he says. "If you're not familiar with the stream, visit it during the day to learn the water."

Hise searches for big brown hideouts-woody structure along a deep bank or at the tail of a large bend pool. Bring a 4- or 5-weight rod tipped with a short (four- to five-foot) leader and 1X tippet. Dry-fly patterns like a white Hairwing or Gray Drake in No. 6 are effective. "We sometimes tie a small glow-in-the-dark post on the top of the fly to make it more visible," Hise says. "It's best to just pick a spot and watch for, or listen for, a big fish gulping bugs. They're not shy about it once they start." Contact: Thornapple Outfitters (616-975-3800). -Scott Bestul

Tune Town Trout
Branson browns and 'bows
Missouri There's good fishing the length of Branson's Lake Taneycomo, but the best angling consistently takes place in the special-regulations stretch of the lake from the Table Rock Dam to Fall Creek. Flyfishermen use black, brown or olive Woolly Buggers, while most spin-fishermen use baits like the Countdown Rapala in shad colors or white jigs, which anglers think simulate shad cut up by the dam's turbines. You have an excellent chance to land plenty of fat 15- and 16-inch trout as well as some 20-inch-plus keepers and numerous eating-size trout below the 12- to 20-inch slot limit. Watch out for water releases from Table Rock Dam.

Contact: Missouri Department of Conservation (573-751-4115). -P.B.

Leech Lake Muskies
A summer-long plan of attack for the fish of 1,000 casts
**Minnesota **Go shallow for muskies on the north end of Leech Lake. "Look for fish in two to three feet of water," says veteran angler ff Arnold. "They'll hang in weedy flats where the water temperature is near sixty degrees. Try Sucker, Waboose and Portage bays." Arnold notes muskies are in post-spawn mode. "The water is clear and the fish are spooky, so no piano-wire leaders," he warns. "Use a seven- or seven-and-a-half-foot rod loaded with Tuff-Line or Fireline to toss buzzbaits or small spinnerbaits in white and chartreuse. This is all trolling-motor fishing. You're stalking individual fish."

As summer progresses, Arnold follows muskies to other lairs. "Usually around June 20 the fish have left the shallows and will head for weed lines and walleye feeding areas on the south end of the lake near Miller's Bay and Uram's Bay. This happens when the water warms to sixty-five degrees and you see water cabbage about three-feet high. Now you want to throw bigger lures like a black Mepp's Giant Killer," Arnold says.

Contact: Reed's Sports Shop (218-547-1505). -S.B.

Lake Webster Walleyes
Standing timber holds trophy-class fish
Kansas Webster is full of standing timber dating back to the dry 1980s, when the lake was 15 to 20 feet below its current levels-and that's where the fish are. Take your boat down the old roadbeds that make open lanes among the flooded cottonwoods. Old parking lots, built by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks at what used to be lakeside, offer bigger clearings back in the woods.

Don't drift, but instead anchor in the flooded timber and either make short casts with crayfish-colored Hot'N Tots or Rat-L-Traps, or stick to vertical jigging with a night crawler on a one-eighth-ounce jighead with a piece of white curly-tail body on the hook. Lake Webster's walleye population is on the upswing. Four good year-classes in a row mean anglers will find plenty of walleyes on both sides of the 15-inch limit as well as some trophy-class 5- to 10-pounders.

Contact: Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (316-672-5911). -P.B.

First-Class Bassin' in the Second City
Chicago's often-ignored Lakefront offers top smallmouth fishing
Illinois Despite serving as host of the 2000 BASS Masters Classic, the great Chicago Lakefront smallmouth fishery receives very little pressure.

"You will want to target the various break walls, riprap and other visible cover," says Ranger Boats staffer Jerry Robackouski.

Fish a 200 series Bandit crankbait in crayfish or a Rapala SR5 Rattling Fat Rap in black or blue back with chrome sides parallel to the rocks. Also bring along a good supply of tube jigs.

Some of the most productive spots are Calumet Harbor, the Planetarium, the face of the break wall heading into Belmont Harbor, the Chicago Harbor break wall and Navy Pier.

Contact: Jerry Robackouski (815-942-1333); E.D.B Guide Service (708-597-8698). -C.D. Landahl

ILLINOIS
Eastern Illinois Smallmouths: Throw curly-tail grubs in salamander to eddies behind boulders and logs for smallmouths on the Middle Fork of the Vermillion, Illinois's only National Scenic River. The concessionaire at Kickapoo State Park near Danville rents canoes and drops anglers off upstream. Post-spawn, use brown or olive lures resembling crayfish. Contact: Kickapoo State Park (217-442-4915).

Lake Springfield Largemouths: Toss chartreuse or white Beetle Spins around stumps, laydowns and patches of shoreline water willows at this 4,000-acre water-supply lake for the city of Springfield. Expect to find lots of fat 15- to 16-inch largemouths, especially in the flooded timber west of the I-55 bridge. A city boat sticker is required. Contact: Illinois DNR (217-782-6302).

Key Dates
June 7-10: Illinois free fishing days.

INDIANA
Turtle Creek Cats: Channel cats are overrunning Turtle Creek, a 1,550-acre cooling lake south of Terre Haute. The DNR has removed the 10-fish limit in an effort to control the population. Expect to catch a lot of eating-size fiddlers in the 9- to 12-inch range, plus larger cats over 24 inches on chicken livers or stinkbaits. Stay away from the warm-water arm and stick to the cooler southern end of the lake. Contact: Indiana DNR (317-232-4080).

Webster Lake Muskies: Speed-trolling is the tactic of choice. Troll spoon plugs in silver, gold or frog colors "so fast your arms hurt," in the words of one local, and concentrate on the five 10- to 15-feet-deep basins in the shallow lake. Muskie fishing on the northeastern Indiana lake keeps getting better. Last year Webster gave up some genuine 50-inch fish. Contact: Indiana DNR (317-232-4080).

Robinson and Round Lakes Bass: Use light blue Rat-L-Traps in the shallows until weeds thicken, then fish the edges of the weed beds with black or purple jig-and-pigs and worms for eight-pound largemouths in tiny Robinson Lake, 30 miles west of Fort Wayne. If you're more interested in quantity, try nearby Round Lake northeast of Columbia City. Even 100- to 200-bass days aren't unheard of for anglers who work black and purple plastic worms over the two long, shallow bars extending into the middle of the lake. Contact: Indiana DNR (317-232-4080).

Key Dates
June 8-9: Indiana free fishing days.

IOWA
River Smallmouths: Float northeastern Iowa's rivers in a canoe, then wade to probe the deep pools with crayfish and night crawlers or crankbaits, jigs and curly-tails in olives and browns that simulate crayfish. Best bets for a big fish are the Makoqueta River, either in the four-mile, no-kill stretch in Delaware County or around the Pictured Rocks area in Jones County. The Wapsipinicon has good fishing from Independence to Troy Mills. For a mixed bag of trout and bass, try the Upper Iowa. Contact: Iowa DNR (515-281-5145).

Brushy Creek Lake Bass: Work spinnerbaits and plastic worms around the timber and on the drop-offs. Black and purple work best in Brushy Creek's clear water. Iowa DNR biologist Lannie Miller predicts excellent bass fishing on the new 690-acre lake near Fort Dodge this year. "Our bass are fat and healthy. Even the twelve-inch fish look like footballs," he says. Contact: Iowa DNR (515-281-5145).

Union County Bass Lakes: Use a depth finder to locate submerged log piles in Green Valley Lake. Jig-and-pigs and worms are the rule in black, purple, fire-tiger and chartreuse on Three Mile and Twelve Mile lakes around the standing timber, creek channels, drop-offs and flats. The Creston-area lakes offer good fishing for bass thanks to 15-inch minimums on Three and Twelve Mile and a 22-inch minimum on Green Valley. It takes more time to get the boat out of the water and onto the trail Creek, a 1,550-acre cooling lake south of Terre Haute. The DNR has removed the 10-fish limit in an effort to control the population. Expect to catch a lot of eating-size fiddlers in the 9- to 12-inch range, plus larger cats over 24 inches on chicken livers or stinkbaits. Stay away from the warm-water arm and stick to the cooler southern end of the lake. Contact: Indiana DNR (317-232-4080).

Webster Lake Muskies: Speed-trolling is the tactic of choice. Troll spoon plugs in silver, gold or frog colors "so fast your arms hurt," in the words of one local, and concentrate on the five 10- to 15-feet-deep basins in the shallow lake. Muskie fishing on the northeastern Indiana lake keeps getting better. Last year Webster gave up some genuine 50-inch fish. Contact: Indiana DNR (317-232-4080).

Robinson and Round Lakes Bass: Use light blue Rat-L-Traps in the shallows until weeds thicken, then fish the edges of the weed beds with black or purple jig-and-pigs and worms for eight-pound largemouths in tiny Robinson Lake, 30 miles west of Fort Wayne. If you're more interested in quantity, try nearby Round Lake northeast of Columbia City. Even 100- to 200-bass days aren't unheard of for anglers who work black and purple plastic worms over the two long, shallow bars extending into the middle of the lake. Contact: Indiana DNR (317-232-4080).

Key Dates
June 8-9: Indiana free fishing days.

IOWA
River Smallmouths: Float northeastern Iowa's rivers in a canoe, then wade to probe the deep pools with crayfish and night crawlers or crankbaits, jigs and curly-tails in olives and browns that simulate crayfish. Best bets for a big fish are the Makoqueta River, either in the four-mile, no-kill stretch in Delaware County or around the Pictured Rocks area in Jones County. The Wapsipinicon has good fishing from Independence to Troy Mills. For a mixed bag of trout and bass, try the Upper Iowa. Contact: Iowa DNR (515-281-5145).

Brushy Creek Lake Bass: Work spinnerbaits and plastic worms around the timber and on the drop-offs. Black and purple work best in Brushy Creek's clear water. Iowa DNR biologist Lannie Miller predicts excellent bass fishing on the new 690-acre lake near Fort Dodge this year. "Our bass are fat and healthy. Even the twelve-inch fish look like footballs," he says. Contact: Iowa DNR (515-281-5145).

Union County Bass Lakes: Use a depth finder to locate submerged log piles in Green Valley Lake. Jig-and-pigs and worms are the rule in black, purple, fire-tiger and chartreuse on Three Mile and Twelve Mile lakes around the standing timber, creek channels, drop-offs and flats. The Creston-area lakes offer good fishing for bass thanks to 15-inch minimums on Three and Twelve Mile and a 22-inch minimum on Green Valley. It takes more time to get the boat out of the water and onto the trail